More and more people are moving jobs several times throughout their working life and accruing multiple pension pots along the way.
With the disappearance of the ‘job-for-life’, it can be all too easy to lose track of the pension funds you‘ve built up.
According to Government statistics, there’s currently more than £400 million in unclaimed pension savings in the UK.
In addition to those who haven’t kept tabs on their workplace savings, others have forgotten to update previous employers from many years ago with their change of address. The good news is that, with a bit of effort, you can track down money lying in old pensions.
Here’s our guide to helping you get reunited with what’s rightfully yours…
Contact old employers
First off, if you think you may have had a pension through an old job, it’s worth contacting the Human Resources team at the company. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
Track down lost pots
You should also get in touch with old providers so you can map out what money you may have sitting with them. A useful tool is the Government’s Pensions Tracing Service.
This service has an extensive database of pension scheme administrators for tracking down forgotten pension pots.
You’ll need to provide information about the name of your old employer or pension provider, and potentially further information, such as the dates you worked at the company, and your National Insurance number.
The service should be able to generate a contact address for the pension scheme administrator, even if the company has moved or rebranded.
Tread carefully though – if you search for “Pensions Tracing Service” online, many companies using similar names may pop up. But some of these firms may be dodgy and try to charge you – or sell you other services. To be on the safe side, always go through the official Government site.
The Unclaimed Asset Register
Another tool you can use to search for old pensions – as well as shares and insurance policies – is the Unclaimed Asset Register (UAR). However this service isn’t free; you’ll be charged £25. But the UAR will then search millions of records from lots of different companies for you.
Consider combining pots
If you’re struggling to juggle several different pensions, you may want to think about combining all your savings within one single pot, as this will make it easier to keep track. But before moving any money, you need to weigh up the pros and cons.
On the upside, consolidating can be an effective way to keep tabs on your pensions, as you will have all your savings in one place. This means you’ll have a lot less paperwork to worry about.
On the downside, you risk giving up valuable benefits, such as guaranteed annuity rates. You also risk facing hefty charges.
If you do decide you want to consolidate your pots, it could be a wise move to take some independent financial advice first.
Why is it so important to track down pensions?
• It’s important to see their value and assess how well they are doing.
• With the changes to pensions – and the new pension flexibility – many older schemes may not be set up for you to benefit from these changes.
• In addition, you may not have nominated a beneficiary in the event of your death at the time when they were opened for you.
What difference will the Pensions Dashboard make?
The long-awaited Pensions Dashboard, due to be introduced in 2019, will show savers all their pensions in one place online. This includes the State Pension, workplace pension schemes and private pensions. This should make it a lot easier to hunt down lost pensions.
How to track down other lost savings and investments
As well as losing track down of retirement savings, many people have money lying lost or forgotten in bank and building society accounts, as well as in Premium Bonds.
Figures from the Money Advice Service suggest there’s an estimated £850 million sitting in lost bank accounts.
If this is the case, you should make use of the free, official tracing service, MyLostAccount. Simply fill in a form with as many details as you can remember. You then have to wait a few weeks while the service tries to reunite you with your lost funds. But if the result is positive, it will be well worth the wait.
Premium Bond holders might also want to check the National Savings & Investments prize-checker tool.
For lost investment trusts, contact The Association of Investment Companies.
Tips to help you avoid losing track in the first place
• Manage your money online.
• Make time to stay on top of your finances.
• Make sure you notify all your banks, pension providers and other financial firms of your change of address when you move house.
Paul Lewis on finding old bank accounts
‘Does the Midland Bank still exist?’ asks one frustrated reader. The answer is no. It is now part of HSBC. But if you or a relative had money in an old account in any bank or building society that was never withdrawn, you can still get it back.
To sort it out, go to My Lost Account, a free service run by the banks and building societies. If you have an old passbook with a balance showing, that does not mean the money is there. It may have been transferred by the owner to another account when the firm stopped using paper books. They were not always brought up to date. After an account has been dormant for a long time, the money in it will pass to the Government for good causes. But if you can prove ownership, then you can still get it back.
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